Byron Buxton strives to follow up a strong outing when the Minnesota Twins visit the Cleveland Guardians in Monday’s opener of a five-game series.
Buxton fell a triple short of the cycle in Sunday’s 6-3 win over the visiting Colorado Rockies and the right knee trouble he has recently been experiencing was nowhere to be found.
“It’s a very fun part of my game to be able to hit the ball in the gap and run and get that electricity going throughout the dugout,” Buxton said afterward.
Minnesota manager Rocco Baldelli was pleased to see his standout center fielder moving around the bases so well.
“His stride is really something,” Baldelli said. “Everything he’s dealt with, you probably haven’t seen it as much as you normally would, but when you see it, it’s fun and special. His legs have been a difference maker. Those bases matter.”
Buxton has hit 19 homers this season for the Twins, who lead the Guardians by two games in the American League Central.
Cleveland took two out of three from Minnesota last week but then dropped three straight games to the Boston Red Sox.
Guardians manager Terry Francona will be looking to see improved play from his squad. Cleveland was outscored 18-8 in the series, including 8-3 on Sunday.
“There were four or five plays — maybe they weren’t errors — but we need to make those plays,” Francona said. “That makes it even harder. It certainly magnifies it. They hit the ball hard.”
The Twins took two out of three from the Rockies and have won three of four overall.
Minnesota and Cleveland play a doubleheader Tuesday and single games on Wednesday and Thursday.
The Guardians turn to right-hander Triston McKenzie (4-5, 3.51 ERA) in the first game of the series. He will face Twins right-hander Sonny Gray (3-1, 2.53).
McKenzie is 1-4 lifetime with a 6.39 ERA in six career starts against Minnesota. He is 0-1 with a 7.15 ERA in two outings against the Twins this season.
The crafty Gray is 5-3 with a 3.47 ERA in 13 starts against Cleveland, 2-3 with a 5.28 ERA in five starts at Progressive Field.
This season, Gray has a 5.40 ERA in two no-decisions against the Guardians.
Neither setup man Eli Morgan nor closer Emmanuel Clase pitched in the Boston series, so both should be fresh for Minnesota.
The Red Sox were successful against the rest of the Guardians’ bullpen. Lefty Tanner Tully was called up from the minors to pitch three innings on Sunday.
“It’s not just appearances,” Francona said. “We have to protect those guys as much as possible. They are stressful innings.”
Some of the top hitters in the AL will be featured in the Twins’ series.
Minnesota second baseman Luis Arraez leads the AL in batting at .349. Shortstop Carlos Correa has raised his average to .301.
Jose Ramirez, who had a 13-game hitting streak stopped on Saturday, was 3-for-4 on Sunday to raise his average to .303. Andres Gimenez was 2-for-3 and is now hitting a team-high .318 (among those who qualify).
–Field Level Media